Going on a cruise was never on our radar screen.
We love sailing on Lake Erie in our 27-foot sloop, Carina, and when weather or schedules interfere, we like to hang out at the dock and sleep in the gently rocking V-berth.
Being on a cruise ship with thousands of strangers and stopping at ports along the way sounded way too formal (not just the dress code) and organized for us. Then we heard about a Transatlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2. The trip consisted of seven nights at sea with no stops between Southampton, England and New York City.
We had been looking for a special trip to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary; plus, my husband dreamed of crossing the Atlantic in a boat (though one more like the size Carina).
We signed on!
The day before departing, we toured Southampton’s SeaCity Museum, which focused on the local workers who perished on the Titanic when it sailed out of Southampton in 1912. At dinner, we met a British couple heading to Russia on a cruise ship. Not newbies, they calmed our last-minute anxiety.
Still, it was with joy and suspense we opened the door to our stateroom that Sunday afternoon in July to begin our adventure at sea.
Why People Love Cruise Ships
Before our trip, I often heard family and friends explain their love of cruising.
You unpack once, but get to sample multiple ports.
The food is delicious, and 24/7.
You can relax by the pool or stay busy attending all sorts of programs.
You and your traveling companions can do things together, or you can go in different directions.
The Cruise Critic came up with a total of 10 reasons people love to cruise. Here are 4 of them:
- A cruise vacation offers great value;
- It is easy to plan;
- You meet lots of people from all over the world;
- Cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes.
Yes to all of the above – except the multiple ports. Let me tell you a little more about our cruise and what I would add to the list above.
First, we were not on a cruise, but a crossing – a point that we had heard the regulars, i.e. the Cunardists, might point out if we misspoke.
Yes, we were concerned that the atmosphere might be a little highbrow for our tastes, and most of the passengers would be much older than us – we are in our early 60s.
Well, turns out there were no reprimands or reason for concern.
The 2,600 passengers were a delightful mix of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. There were many intergenerational families with children in strollers and teenagers, gay couples and grandparents.
QM2 offered daily gatherings for recovering alcoholics, men and women “sailing solo” and LGBT passengers. And while the majority of passengers were either American or British, many other countries were represented, especially among the crew.
Our dining companion was a couple from Bavaria. Johannes was a retired minister, and could speak and understand English quite well. His wife, Renate, would pull out miniature Lilliput dictionaries to find the right word, or help us translate. We talked of our families and of crossing activities, but also about the Republican National Convention and the deadly Munich shootings, which occurred during the crossing.
We also had many engaging conversations with the crew, who work for six months, then are off two months. The maitre’d was from Portugal, the sommelier from Chili, the server from Kazakhstan, and the steward from Brazil.
Lots to Do
People who enjoy traveling on a cruise ship with port stops along the way might think seven days at sea a tad boring. Well, watching the TV channel showing footage from the video cam mounted on Queen Mary’s bow was a snoozer, but that’s about it.
Some of my favorite activities included:
- Reclining in a plush seat to watch virtual sky shows in the planetarium;
- Speaking of seats, lounging in multiple spots to sit and view the ever-changing seas below;
- Browsing in the 9,000-book library overlooking the bow;
- Attending entertaining presentations from Broadway producer Steven Rivellino;
- Watching the sky and water from our balcony on deck 13;
- Running laps on deck 7 promenade;
- Spending three hours at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub;
- Dressing up for dinner, (reminded me of playing dress-up as a child, and I was blessed to have a friend who loaned me her cruise frills);
- Listening to the noon briefings from Captain Christopher Wells, which always ended with a quote, like this one from Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Greatness is not in where we stand, but in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it – but sail we must and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”
Before we left, cruising aficionados cautioned that the experience would probably hook us. We don’t see it that way. It was a trip of a lifetime, and not one either of us imagine duplicating.
Kind of reminds me of what people said when we bought Carina 30 years ago. You’ll replace it with a bigger sailboat in three to five years. Hasn’t happened.
Photo credit: Frank Wiewandt
In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.